April 4, 2016

Do you know RankBrain? Will it eat up search engine optimization/ SEO?

Most bloggers are familiar with Google PageRank. It  was an index on which Google measured a website's quality and it remained in currency for quite some time. Later, search engine optimization (SEO) professionals found out ways to manipulate it; as always, Google acted smarter: it deprecated PageRank in favor of other quality factors.

Of late, Google has been working on RankBrain, which is not a measurement but a machine-learning system. It is a highly intelligent, though only a fraction as intelligent as a human being, way of processing searches. For some months now, Google is reported to have been using it as part of the current  search algorithm, called Hummingbird.

  
How Google applies an algorithm or what all 'signals' or factors go into it is not fully known. However, it is seen that Google fairly well understands the intention of search queries and also digs out relevant search results. It understands synonyms, differentiates between homonyms, senses common mis-spellings, can relate words to the context in which these are used, can link searches to locations and businesses...

The number of searches and the web information database both are too enormous to be handled unless artificial intelligence is used. Algorithms do the job but something more needed to decipher and apply fuzzy details. RankBrain tries to serve that purpose. Like any machine-learning system, it keeps learning from earlier examples. 

So, in search business, Google is replacing humans with machines?


Yes and no.  

Yes, because the enormous work that Google search engine does in a day cannot be done by a hundred thousand humans in a year. So, by implication, it already has been using machines that replace millions of humans.

No, because humans will continue to guide all operations, and RankBrain is no exception. The backend fine-tuning of search results and understanding of queries is all done by humans. It is humans who keep refining the search. It is humans who test what machines do and then 'teach' machines so that machines/ computers learn to produce better results the next time.
  

Will RankBrain kill search engine optimization (SEO)?

  
Not likely. Ethical and common-sensical SEO is not likely to be hit. In fact, such practices will reward as artificial jacking up of results will reduce. Well, whether it is RankBrain or other factors, the emphasis of search engines on better understanding of intent of queries and relevance of results will keep hurting black-hat SEO.

What more is known about RankBrain?


Google has not officially talked so far about it. Bloomberg first carried an article on RankBrain. Most other media websites have recycled this information only. SearchEngineLand has followed it with greater details.